Conservative media figures loyal to President Donald Trump are launching a wave of attacks to press him to abandon his support for the Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
House Republicans and Trump have aimed to rally support for the plan, called the American Health Care Act, amid opposition from pockets of the party.
The proposal faces a tough task in clearing the Senate without changes, especially after a Congressional Budget Office score estimated millions more people would be uninsured under the plan and that older, poorer Americans would suffer the most from it.
Some staunch Trump supporters in the media sense a political calamity for the president, who previously said he sought a plan that would achieve health care for all Americans at lower costs. They are urging him to distance himself from the current bill — which they associate with House Speaker Paul Ryan — and seek an alternative as he faces potential backlash due to coverage losses.
"Donald Trump staked out the high moral ground by calling for a feasible system of universal health care to replace Obamacare. He shouldn't retreat from that no matter how much the establishment GOP dislikes it," Christopher Ruddy, Trump's friend and CEO of right-leaning news site Newsmax, wrote on Tuesday.
The criticism comes at a critical time for efforts to pass the bill. Ryan and the GOP House leadership may well need Trump's support to persuade skeptical lawmakers to back it.
Ruddy described the Republican plan, which he called "Ryan Care," as a "political death wish" because of the possible sharp rise in the number of people uninsured and the rollback of Medicaid expansion. He urged Trump to "ditch" the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which has opposed the bill, and seek out a plan that could potentially get bipartisan support in Congress.
Fox News commentator Eric Bolling, who called himself a Trump supporter from "the very beginning," also wrote on Tuesday that Trump should "scrap" the bill. He urged him to "send Paul Ryan and (Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price) back to the drawing board" to come up with a "free market solution."
Right-wing site Breitbart, which often covers Trump positively, also fired a salvo this week, publishing audio from October in which Ryan said he would no longer defend Trump. In its report, Breitbart wrote that "the new audio file raises questions as to how loyal Ryan is to Trump politically — and is asking the new president to use precious political capital to push through legislation that seems arithmetically destined for congressional failure."
The White House has publicly maintained that Trump still supports the bill. On Tuesday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump is working with lawmakers on a compromise and insisted the current plan is the best chance Republicans will get to repeal the ACA, better known as Obamacare.
Still, Trump has kept himself at a distance from GOP lawmakers in recent comments.
"The Republicans, frankly, are putting themselves in a very bad position — I tell this to [Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price] all the time — by repealing Obamacare," Trump said Monday. He argued that the system would eventually implode if the GOP did nothing, and said letting it do so is "certainly an option," though not one he likes.
On Wednesday morning, Ryan said in a Fox Business interview that the House wrote the bill with input from Trump and Senate committees.